Creature Of Habit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

A place for everything, and everything in it’s place.

Humans.  You think you have it so bad.  You’re born, you live for a while, you die.  I’m not impressed.  Why?  The biggest difference between you and me is that I’ve actually been a human.  It was a long time ago but I remember.  I guarantee you this, my pathetic life from 1366 to 1384 sucked a lot more than what 99% of you are going through now.  You think you have it bad?  You should try being a ghost.

Sure you suffer a lot.  Been there, done that.  At least it ends.  I’ve been a ghost for 633 years.  You don’t know the troubles I’ve seen.

But I’ll admit it.  As far as ghosts go, I could have done worse.  Moving to America after haunting Ireland for half a millennium was a good decision.  You might as well haunt people with money.  They have more interesting lives and better toys.

Look, I know ghosts have a reputation.  I can’t help it if other ghosts do bad things to the people they haunt.  You shouldn’t judge me by the actions of ghosts I’ve never met.

You could ask the family I’m haunting now.  I’d been at this apartment for a while, for some reason the previous tenants moved.  The Andersons have been here three years, they don’t seem to mind me too much.

Like Justin, he’s 17 and a junior in high school.  He came in the other day, and used that voice he only uses when he talks to me. 

“Listen up, Dershvalli.  If things go according to plan, I’ll be bringing a girl over later.  If you pull one of your stunts and embarrass me, I swear to God I will never play Reaper Of Souls with you again.  I’ll sell the Xbox on eBay and you’ll be sorry forever.”

“No problem Justy, I’ll make like sheep and get the flock out of here.”  I wasn’t worried.  I was pretty sure he wouldn’t sell the Xbox no matter what I did.

You might be wondering how a ghost from Ireland would end up with a name like Dershvalli.  It’s not my real name.  In 1366 I was Fergus Sheachlainn.  Dershvalli is my ghost name.  I adopted it when I moved to America.  

There wasn’t much to do in New York City in 1855.  No Rockettes on Broadway, no boxing matches at Madison Square Garden.  But there were boardwalks at the beaches, with plenty of entertainers. 

Dershvalli was the stage name of a popular magician.  I thought it sounded more ghosty than Fergus.

Anyway, enough about the past.

What I’m talking about is how hard it is to exist as an unique entity for centuries on end.  Stuff builds up on you.  I spent most of my Fergus years mending fishing nets, chopping the heads off of fish, and various other jobs related to life in a fishing village.  There weren’t any psychologists in Ardglass, Ireland in the 14th century.  But if there were, I would have been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I blame it on the nets.  You don’t know how boring it was, sorting through fishing nets and repairing tears and loose knots.  But making new nets was the worst.  Nothing will push you over the OCD cliff like making fishing nets by hand.

It starts with how you wrap the string around the netting needle.  Over, loop, around. Pinch off with the thumb, turn the needle over, repeat.  If you don’t wrap the string properly, you’ll have holes in your net.  But that is nothing compared to what happens next.  

Make a loop, place the sizing gauge, pull the needle through the loop, make a knot, make another knot, pull out the gauge.  Repeat, over and over, making one loop at a time.  From sunrise to sunset.  Eventually you make a net.  And then another one.  Six days a week and after church on Sunday.  Do that a couple of years and see how it affects your sanity.

It started with counting the loops.  I had to count the loops.  Then I had to tap my foot each time I made a loop.  When you make nets every day, you get really fast.  I tapped my foot a lot.

Then there was the constant checking.  Checking to see if my coins were still in my hiding place.  Checking to see if the door to my tiny, dark room was locked.  Even if I’d just checked a few minutes before.  

And more counting.  I counted the steps to the wharf.  I kept track of the number of stairs I climbed up each day, and the number I climbed down.

Modern obsessive-compulsives differ from those of my era in one important way.  Now we know about bacteria and viruses, so today’s OCDers are obsessed with cleanliness.  They are constant hand washers.  They keep their kitchens sparkling clean, and only drink bottled water.

Too bad I didn’t have those compulsions.  In the spring of 1384, Ardglass had the worst storm anyone could remember.  Between the wind, rain, and flooding from the Irish sea, the town was devastated.  Salt water from the sea covered the fields and crops died.  The fishing boats were wrecked, sunk or beached.  There was little food or fresh water.  We didn’t know that water sometimes contained tiny things that could kill you.

The good news was that I didn’t die from the typhoid fever I got from drinking contaminated water.  That is a terribly slow, painful way to go.  The bad news was that I contracted cholera at the same time.  After 24 hours of continuous vomiting and diarrhea, I was dead.

The other bad news is that my OCD behaviors picked up where they left off when I became a ghost.

Seriously, I’m done talking about the past, I mean it this time.

So this is what it is like to be an OCD ghost.  When Justin’s family moved in, his dad Kenneth carelessly shelved his books.  Julia, his mother, randomly tossed her shoes on the floor in her closet.  Justin didn’t even bother with his Xbox game cartridges.  He left them in a box, on the floor next to the game station.  Do you see what I had to deal with?  It was awful.

Kenneth’s books bothered me the most.  First, I grouped them by genre.  History, college textbooks, science fiction, and so on.  Then alphabetically by author name.  Multiple books by the same author were sorted by publication date.

I organized Julia’s shoes, then Justy’s game cartridges.  You may not realize it, but it takes a lot of energy for a ghost to move physical objects.  We can’t just grab something with our hands.  We have to use psychokinetic energy.  Try moving a wall full of books around with your mind and let me know how long it takes to get over the migraine. 

What you call haunting, I call organizing.  I have to do it.

Of all the people I’ve haunted during the past six centuries, Justy is one of my favorites.  He never gets too bunged up over the things I do.  Like yesterday.  Julia ragged him out about his messy room.  She made him clean up.  And it was laundry day, so he’d just folded his clothes and put them neatly in their drawers.  Socks and underwear on top, shorts and tee shirts in the middle, sweaters and pants on the bottom.

While the family was eating supper, I rearranged Justy’s chest of drawers.  I sorted everything by color.  Blacks, blues, dark greens and reds in the top drawer.  Pastels in the middle and whites on the bottom.

Lately kids at Justy’s school have been using slang from the hippie days of the 1960s.  They call it retro-slang.  He opened the top drawer, looking for socks.  Instead, there were sweaters and pants.  Of course, he realized immediately what I’d done.  This was nothing new.  After he’d opened all three doors, and found his socks, he uttered a solitary response.  “Copasetic!”

Anyway, I’ve got to run.  Some idiot is ringing the doorbell.  I can see his car parked out in the lot with my mind’s eye.  There is a “Parker for Senator” sign on the door.  Effing politicians.  

It will be a simple matter to project my voice just behind his head.  In the most evil whisper I can muster, I’ll say, “If you don’t leave immediately I will cut your head off like a fish caught in my net.”

I actually wouldn’t do that, even if I could.  I’d done enough fish head cutting back in the 1300s.  But there is no way I’m going to let this clown harass and annoy the Andersons.  That’s my job.


Submitted: June 16, 2017

© Copyright 2021 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

hullabaloo22

Wow, Serge, this has to be one of your very best. A ghost with OCD! And that description of making those nets, day after day after day.....brilliantly done.

Sun, June 18th, 2017 10:59am

Author
Reply

Awesome! If there are ghosts I'd think they'd have the same frailties as they had when they were human. I watched a video of someone making a fishing net and I'd never do that.

Sun, June 18th, 2017 6:25am

Jane Atkinson

An OCD ghost, huh? That's a new one. Thanks, I enjoyed it!

Sun, July 2nd, 2017 1:37am

Author
Reply

Thanks. I see more stories in Dershvalli's future.

Sun, July 2nd, 2017 7:45am

Criss Sole

A ghost with OCD. That is something I was not expecting. I would not mind a ghost like that living with me. I tend to be messy. It would be nice to have someone organize my stuff. I have to agree with the comments. This is brilliant, and very original.

Sun, July 30th, 2017 8:26am

Author
Reply

I would pay Dershvalli to organize the stuff in my house.

Sun, July 30th, 2017 4:03am

Rosy Dreams

I like the way you think Serge. You are either a genius, or you have OCD :-)

Fri, December 15th, 2017 3:46pm

Author
Reply

Perhaps both!

Sat, December 16th, 2017 5:01am

Robert Helliger

Good book.

Sat, October 13th, 2018 4:21am

Author
Reply

Thanks!

Sat, October 13th, 2018 4:32am

Sharief Hendricks

A ghost with a purpose !!

And he takes his job/s very seriously too...don't mess with the Andersons !!!

Awesome Serge !

Thu, September 17th, 2020 12:27pm

Author
Reply

Thanks! Fortunately, Dershvalli takes the CDC guidelines seriously and stays 6 feet from humans now.

Thu, September 17th, 2020 7:22am

Shar

I really enjoyed this unique tale and the first paragraph hooked me from the start. I sincerely hope the author will consider fleshing this into a longer story so I can discover the origin of the Irish OCD ghost.

Fri, September 18th, 2020 4:55am

Author
Reply

I'll be writing more this winter so I'll give that some thought. Thanks for the suggestion.

Fri, September 18th, 2020 5:11am

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